Oktoberfest at home

Wiesn for one

No Oktoberfest this year? That’s simply unthinkable for our author. Without further ado, he is arranging his own personal Wiesn celebration – all by himself, within his own four walls.

Damn it! My lederhosen are falling down. There’s not much I can do about that right now though, as both my hands are occupied with the beer keg I am lugging up to my fourth-floor apartment. It’s 32 degrees outside and my face is dripping with sweat. I set the keg down on a step for a moment and pull my trousers up almost to my armpits. Not that they’ll stay there long, because I can’t do up the button any more: it seems I may have gained a few kilos in the months of pandemic season. That is one advantage of celebrating Oktoberfest alone though – there’s nobody to see when your lederhosen suddenly fall down to your knees and you’re standing there in your underwear. On which note, hello – or rather Grüß Gott – from my own private Wiesn!

That is one advantage of celebrating Oktoberfest alone though – there’s nobody to see when your lederhosen suddenly fall down to your knees and you’re standing there in your underwear. On which note, hello – or rather Grüß Gott – from my own private Wiesn!

I haven’t missed a single Oktoberfest since I was a child. Every year I can be found on that Saturday, with the punctuality of a model student, sitting in the Schottenhamel festival tent waiting patiently for the Anstich, the traditional tapping of the first keg – and you will find me in the same place on the last day too, waving my sparkler in melancholy farewell. For me, Oktoberfest is the fifth season of the year. It’s a time when you can find yourself swaying to the music arm-in-arm with your boss, or making new friends from Italy and Australia; when the aroma of roast chicken fills your nostrils and even a shy guy like me gets chatted up by a woman from time to time.

In short, Oktoberfest is the high point of my year. Even in January I find myself counting the days until it begins. And I’m supposed to just skip it this year? No way! Coronavirus has already robbed me of my trim figure – I’m not going to let it take Oktoberfest from me as well. So I’ve decided to celebrate regardless, even if I have to do it all alone in my flat.

It takes the last of my strength to heave the keg onto the kitchen counter, with an unapproved lifting technique that probably has my old physiotherapist turning in his ergonomic grave. But at least the beer’s ready now. I have already set up a beer table with two benches in the living room, and it’s set with six glasses – for me and the friends who normally come with me to Oktoberfest each year.

Of course I won’t be leaving them out today. Even if they cannot join me in person, they can be here in spirit. Just like in that New Year’s Eve comedy classic beloved by Germans, the “Dinner for One” sketch. I stupidly only have one stein though, so Finn, Daniel, Sarah, Heiko and Christina will have to make do with small IKEA glasses at their places. Daniel would definitely make a huge song and dance about that because he likes everything to be authentic. He would rather hack his feet off than wear sneakers with lederhosen. Maybe it’s for the best that he isn’t here today.

I stupidly only have one stein though, so Finn, Daniel, Sarah, Heiko and Christina will have to make do with small IKEA glasses at their places. Daniel would definitely make a huge song and dance about that because he likes everything to be authentic.

I glance at the clock. Just before twelve. Anstich time! I fetch my toolbox from the utility room and take out a hammer. It takes four blows, then the beer starts flowing. Well actually, it dribbles meagrely out of the tap – however it does also spray out of the lid of the keg. I quickly hammer the pin of the tap again – which starts the beer pouring out of the back. Where the hell is it all coming from? The keg is standing in an inch-deep river of beer that is running over my kitchen counter. It takes two more firm hammer blows before, finally, the golden-yellow liquid is under control and where it belongs: in my stein. Before I can start to enjoy it though, I have to grab a couple of hand towels from the bathroom and clean up the mess.

Right – now my exclusive personal folk festival can begin. I start the Wiesn playlist on my laptop, and as the familiar lyrics issue from the speaker – “Und dann die Hände zum Himmel – komm lasst uns fröhlich sein…” – I raise my stein and take a good swig from it. My next mouthful is from Finn’s glass; then I take one from Daniel’s; and then from Sarah’s and from Heiko’s; and I am really glad I didn’t buy that stuffed polar bear when I was in IKEA getting the glasses.

I glance at the clock. Just before twelve. Anstich time! I fetch my toolbox from the utility room and take out a hammer. It takes four blows, then the beer starts flowing. Well actually, it dribbles meagrely out of the tap – however it does also spray out of the lid of the keg.

Any Oktoberfest veteran knows, of course, that a hearty meal in your belly is a prerequisite for a day at the Wiesn – and that the food in the festival tents is really outstanding. The Steckerlfisch, grilled fish on a stick, is my favourite, but they unfortunately didn’t have that in my local shop. Instead I picked up half a chicken and some potato salad, some Obazdnen spicy cream cheese dip and a pretzel (a big one, obviously). I generously share out the food among my friends’ plates, only leaving Finn out – he’s on a diet, just like he is every year. Classic Finn, lol. Ahhhh...

Hmm. What’s next? There’s something missing. Of course! Women. Nowhere is it easier to strike up a conversation than at Oktoberfest. But apart from my five imaginary friends, there’s nobody here for me to flirt with. I sit down, placing my beer on the windowsill, and look through the open window at my neighbours going about their business in the courtyard. A young woman strides across the square, carrying a bag of rubbish to the bins. I toast her amicably, but she just looks at me disconcertedly. It’s fair to say I might also be perplexed if a strange man saluted me with a beer from his window, in the middle of the day, with “Hey Baby” by DJ Ötzi playing in the background. I need to make the situation less awkward, so I shout down to the courtyard:

“I’M CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!”
The woman cups a hand to her ear and shouts:
“WHAT?”
“I’M CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!” I call to her.
“OH RIGHT,” the woman calls.
“YES, BECAUSE THE WIESN WAS CANCELLED,” I shout.
Then someone from a neighbouring apartment yells: “SHUT UP, YOU NUTCASE!”

The woman continues on her way to the bins and I quickly close the window. Fine, I’ll flirt with women on Tinder instead. I sit back down on the beer bench and reach into my trouser pocket for my phone – but it isn’t there. Crap, my phone’s gone. I couldn’t have lost it, could I? It wouldn’t be the first mobile phone I’ve lost at Oktoberfest. I’m in luck this time: its on the windowsill, where I was just sitting. I open the dating app and even take a lederhosen selfie to add to my profile. There’s nothing women find sexier than a man in traditional costume; everyone knows that. Actually, there might be two or three other things that women find more attractive, because after ten minutes all I have is a cramp in my thumb and not a single match to show for it.

The DHL guy is now looking at me as though I’ve gotten bumped on the head one too many times on the chairoplane. “Sorry, I have to work.” “Just one beer!” I plead. “I can’t. But have fun!” the man says, and off he goes.

My doorbell rings. There’s a DHL courier standing at the door with a package in his hand. “Can you please take this for the Laubers?” He holds the box out to me. “Of course,” I say, taking the package.

“Would you like to come in for a moment and celebrate Oktoberfest with me?”
The brawny southern European-looking man furrows his brow. “Oktoberfest?”
“It is a traditional folk festival here in Munich,” I explain, giving a thumbs up and a silly grin.“It’s the biggest party in the world.”
The DHL guy frowns. “I know that. But why are you celebrating in your flat?”
“Well, Oktoberfest was cancelled because of the coronavirus. So I’m celebrating at home instead.”
“Alone?” The DHL guy is now looking at me as though I’ve gotten bumped on the head one too many times on the chairoplane. “Sorry, I have to work.”
“Just one beer!” I plead.
“I can’t. But have fun!” the man says, and off he goes.

Oh well. It’s not the first time I’ve been knocked back at the Wiesn – which is how I know that the best way to get over it is to just keep going. I sit on my bench again, take a drink from my stein and gnaw the last scraps of chicken from the bones. If I were in a festival tent, one of the servers would come by around now to clear the empty plates. That’s not the only thing that’s missing from my private Wiesn, I think as I carry the dirty dishes over to the kitchen.

If I were in a festival tent, one of the servers would come by around now to clear the empty plates. That’s not the only thing that’s missing from my private Wiesn, I think as I carry the dirty dishes over to the kitchen.

The main thing that’s lacking is the atmosphere when 10,000 people shout “Prosit!” (Cheers!) together as they sway to the music. That’s something you simply can’t replicate at home. It’s like when you get dressed up in your football strip and watch the match on the television – and it’s completely different from being in the stands at the stadium. Nevertheless, I am satisfied with my experiment so far. Lunch was a great idea in any case. The food was delicious – probably also because of the memories I connect with it. I think the only thing I’d forgo next time is all the hassle with the beer keg.

My little festival reminds me a bit of the foreign “Oktoberfests” that I have visited now and again over the years: it’s nice, but it’s just not the same.

 

 

Text: Maximilian Reich; Photos: Frank Stolle